A Set Of Air Helper Springs Are A Great Boost For Sagging Rear Ends
Outdoorsmen use their pickups for more than just weekend romps wheelin' over rugged backroads, transfer cases locked in low-range, and beds empty. More often than not we use our rigs for both work and play, towing heavy trailers or hauling a big load in the bed during the course of getting the most out of our sizable four-wheeled investment.
For those of you who fall into that group and have found your truck's tail sagging more than you like under heavier loads, we have an easy cure: Helper air springs. These little rubber beauties, which come in the shape of double-convoluted airbags, give a little boost to the vehicle's rear springs. They are both easy to install and quite inexpensive, as we found out when installing a Firestone's Ride Rite Air Helper Spring Kit in a new Toyota Tundra Double Cab.
The kit we used, which costs less than $300 through a number of e-tailers and traditional pickup parts and accessories retailers, forms the heart of Firestone's air-helper spring line available for a wide range of pickups and SUVS-including the new Tundra.
"Truck owners hauling heavy equipment or large campers need Ride-Rite Air Helper Springs to help keep their vehicle level and improve steering while driving," says Paul Gibson, product manager for Firestone Industrial Products' Ride-Rite division. "Because each of our systems are specifically designed for each application, we can help them maintain safe load-carrying capacity and ride quality for the Toyota Tundra."
Gibson says additional benefits of Ride-Rite systems include maintaining braking effectiveness, reducing tire wear, leveling off-center loads-individual inflation valves allow for separate side-to-side adjustment-and increasing vehicle stability.
We installed a set of Firestone's Air Helper Springs under two different 2008 Tundra Double Cabs, one a stock four-wheel-drive model and the other a 4x4 outfitted with a Pro Comp 6-inch suspension lift and 35-inch mud tires. Ride Rite Air Helper Springs allowed us to keep both Tundras unladen ride comfortable and its heavily laden ride well controlled and level.
Firestone's Ride-Rite Air Helper Springs are installed between the pickup's frame and the top of the leaf-spring pack, providing the additional load support through the use of air pressure. The kits we installed included valve stems, so we could add or remove air by simply plugging in an air hose. (Firestone offers an optional air-monitoring system that allows the driver to adjust air pressure on the fly through dash-mounted controls and on-board air compressor.)
Installation is easy, and doesn't require any depth of real mechanical aptitude: If you can use a hacksaw, drill, and a ratchet, you're qualified. It will take the average do-it-yourselfer less than two hours from start to finish. A hoist is not necessary, although a good floor jack and jackstands make the job easier on non-lifted trucks. A basic set of handtools is also needed. We used a 1/2-inch-drive GearWrench socket set and metric X-Beam open/box-end wrenches in our installation.
When done, you'll have the ability to adjust the attitude, handling, and ride of your Tundra 4x4 (or any other pickup or SUV) by using just a few pounds of compressed air. It's inexpensive, simple, and effective.
A number of truck owners believe adding overloads or helper springs is an easy way to increase their vehicle's load-carrying or towing capacity. That's not the case. Although such products do provide more carrying capacity in their own right, they do not increase the maximum load-carrying capacity of a truck, which is a limit set by the vehicle manufacturer related to drivetrain and braking issues, not just springs.
What you accomplish by adding helper springs is keeping the rear of the truck more level than it would be loaded down or towing a heavy trailer with the factory springs. Your truck is still limited as to what it can safely haul/tow by the factory brakes, transmission, cooling system, and axlehousings.
The downside of overload leaves/springs is they severely compromise unloaded ride quality. Air-helper springs, on the other hand, can be inflated or deflated to suit load, ride, and handling.